UTVs are the fastest growing class in Off-Road racing. They have allowed hundreds of thousands of fun loving people to hit the trails and experience a taste of the sport we love. But where the heck did they come from?
Our um…more experienced friends may say it's the Willy’s Quad, back in 1941.
You might say the Meyers Manx(1964), The Lockey Wrangler (1970) or the Honda Odyssey (1977)
My vote is the Kawasaki mule in 1988. This “Pony truck” as Kawi called it filled the hearts and minds of farm workers and greens keepers everywhere. 454 cubic centimeters of compact power, that could still haul a load. Great for job sites or the back 9, but not so much for us off-road dorks.
Between then and 2004 there were some dark days where people were lifting golf carts of all things. Luckily Yamaha got us back on track with the Rhino 660. Which as I understand had a military origin, but that’s another story. It just goes to show how all markets are interconnected and how developments in one area can improve another.
Ok back to the 660. Yes 600 and 60 cc of power. Now I know there are kids UTV’s with nearly the same displacement today. But back then it sounded like a big number. Even with those stats, the market was just starting to get traction regionally.
Enter the Polaris RZR in 2007 (and the 2006 Arctic Cat Prowler to a lesser extent). For the first time ever manufacturers had willingly built vehicles to do what we had been trying to make golf carts do for years…which was go off road without falling apart. And the world began to notice
As we continued to gain more capable platforms, established series like GNCC, CORR, BITD and SCORE began opening up UTV classes at their races. And an industry was born. Now red blooded Americans and foreigners with a bit of cowboy had a place to compete.
In 2015 Can-am upped the ante by bringing a turbo to the game and things really started to get spicy. Today UTV’s are pushing beyond the 1000cc mark and vying for overall victories.
It wasn't long ago that UTV’s were laughed at in the sport. Now they are the fastest growing class. In 2022 we saw Mitch Guthrie in his Polaris Pro-R come within seconds of taking the overall victory in a 300 mile race. Edged out by Bj Baldwin in his Trophy truck.
The best part is all of this benefits us. By that I mean, what's learned in racing trickles down to the vehicle that you and I can buy in a dealership today. And with a few aftermarket add-on like say…an AGM EXR fuel tank you can enjoy long rides or even multi-day tours with the family that weren't feasible even a decade ago.
And the party has just started. Looking forward, what new car(s) are you most excited about?